Health Benefits of Amaranth
Some of the most unique health benefits of amaranth include its ability to stimulate growth and repair, reduce inflammation, prevent certain chronic diseases, boost bone strength, lower blood pressure, improve the immune system, reduce the appearance of varicose veins, maintain healthy hair, and ease weight loss efforts.
Although many varieties of amaranth are considered a weed, there are some varieties in the genus that are cultivated as leafy vegetables and types of cereal grain, as well as for the perennial plant’s valuable essential oils. Scientifically categorized in the Amaranthus genus, the seeds of the amaranth plant have been valued for thousands of years, particularly by the indigenous cultures of Central America and Mexico. Ancient cultures depended on amaranth as a major staple of their diet, due to its high concentration of protein, minerals, and vitamins. It has since been exported to other parts of the world, including Europe and North America, but it is still primarily grown and consumed in Central America.
Both the leaves and the seeds of amaranth are valuable in terms of human health. Whether you choose to consume it as a leaf vegetable, a cereal grain, or grain flour depends on what health benefits you are seeking out. The root itself is also consumed as a root vegetable and has a rich mixture of minerals and nutrients. Considering the versatility and high concentration of antioxidants and phytosterols, amaranth is one of the most of valuable health foods that you may have never heard of. Now, let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of amaranth.
Health Benefits of Amaranth
Protein Content: This is definitely the most well known aspect of amaranth that makes it such a valuable food source for so many cultures. A high protein concentration means that the body can break those plant proteins down into usable amino acids and be reformed into usable proteins. Protein is essential for growth and the creation of new cells and tissues, as well as for more immediate energy needs and metabolic functionality. Amaranth contains a higher protein concentration than almost any other grain on the market. Even more impressively, even the leaves of the amaranth contain beneficial proteins!
Antioxidant Activity: Most people pay attention to amaranth because of its high protein content, making it a crucial nutrient source for certain cultures, but there has been new research revealing that amaranth also contains a certain peptide that has also been identified in soybeans that can reduce inflammation in the body and even prevent the activity of free radicals that can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells. This lesser-known benefit of amaranth is one of the most exciting new developments in recent amaranth research. This anti-inflammatory molecule can also help to alleviate conditions like arthritis, gout, and other inflammation-related issues.
Bone Development: Amaranth leaves contain a wide range of minerals, including a high concentration of calcium. There are very few leafy vegetables that contain higher levels of calcium, making amaranth a veritable superfood in terms of boosting bone strength and preventing osteoporosis. Calcium is a crucial mineral for preventing demineralization of the bones, extending your “active life” well into your old age.
Digestive Health: There are a number of gastrointestinal benefits to eating amaranth, including its high fiber content, which results in smooth digestion of food and facilitates an efficient uptake of minerals. However, amaranth is also a gluten-free substance, which means that for the millions of people suffering from Celiac’s disease or gluten intolerance, amaranth provides a viable alternative as a grain source.
Cardiovascular Health: The dietary fiber mentioned above also helps to balance cholesterol in the body by eliminating “bad” cholesterol from the cardiovascular system. Furthermore, amaranth contains a huge amount of vitamin K, which is a well known booster for heart health. Finally, the potassium content in amaranth helps to lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels and reducing the strain on the cardiovascular system, thereby lowering the chances of developing atherosclerosis. The high content of phytosterols found in amaranth also contribute to a reduction in “bad” cholesterol.
Varicose Veins: While this condition may not affect everyone, varicose veins can be unsightly and embarrassing as we age. Amaranth contains numerous flavonoids, including rutin, which has been directly connected to eliminating varicose veins by strengthening capillary walls. This is also aided by amaranth’s high concentration of vitamin C, an integral component in the production of collagen, which also helps repair and strengthen blood vessel walls.
Vision Health: The significant level of carotenoids and vitamin A found in amaranth leaves is a major boost for eye health, as these antioxidants can prevent macular degeneration and slow/stop the development of cataracts. By lowering oxidative stress in the ocular system, amaranth can help keep your vision healthy and strong for years to come.
Birth Defects: Folate is often overlooked in terms of essential minerals, but it is particularly important for pregnant mothers. Folate deficiency can result in neural tube defects in newborns, so add some amaranth grains or leaves to your diet and protect your newest little addition to the family!
Weight Loss: Considering that an influx of protein in the diet releases a particular “sated” hormone that suppresses the appetite, eating amaranth grains and leaves can help you remain true to your weight loss goals. The dietary fiber is also bulky in your stomach and reduces your appetite, lowering your likelihood to snack between meals and pack on those extra pounds.
Hair Health: If you want to protect the integrity and appearance of your hair, amaranth contains a rare amino acid called lysine that the body cannot naturally produce. This increases your calcium uptake efficiency and helps to keep the hair on your head, strengthening follicles and preventing male pattern baldness. You can even remove the juice from the leaves and apply it to your hair after shampooing to further strengthen your hair and prevent hair loss.
A Final Word of Warning: Like some other green leafy vegetables, amaranth leaves do contain moderate levels of oxalates. For that reason, if you suffer from kidney stones or gallstones, amaranth could exacerbate these conditions. Allergies to amaranth are rare, but they do occasionally occur. The allergic reaction will often occur within minutes, but it is rarely severe. Be sure to consult a medical professional before adding amaranth into your diet and consider undergoing an allergy panel to be sure.